Tag Archives: reading

Procrastireading and writing

It was late at night and I was trawling through Twitter looking for interesting links about academic writing. I tapped, I scrolled, I skimmed. I flipped from one site to the next, a whirling dervish, and even while writing this I find myself flipping to the net in an effort to address my own ignorance- I use the term whirling dervish without even knowing where it comes from, an expression from my youth. So again, I am scanning, scrolling, eyes flying through information and I now wonder if I’ll ever use this expression again in this way, as now the concept of the whirling dervish has been fundamentally transformed.

A digression? An interruption? A juncture?
My action is all of these things – is this positive or a negative though?

I’ve been pondering this for the last couple of weeks after meeting with a colleague who said she struggles to concentrate on a paper for any length of time. Them last week I was meeting with Siobhan O’Dwyer who runs virtual shut up and write sessions (which you can find on Twitter @suwtues). We were talking about our reading and writing habits, pondering whether having a world at our fingertips makes us more likely to develop different types of skills and if this development of a skill set is at the expense of others?

All of this made me think about my own habits- am I engaging in procrastiwriting and procrastireading techniques- the reading and writing I do when I’m not doing ‘proper’ reading or writing? My reading on twitter, blogs, from books about writing – is this just procrastireading? Reading that takes me away from reading journal articles that might inform my academic writing? Is this blog, my home farm blog, my tweets, my Facebook posts, my scrawls in my writing journal – is this really procrastiwriting? Writing that takes me away from the act of writing journal articles, books, grant applications – the types of writing that will foster my career ( according to the rules of the game).

So is this writing or reading a waste of time? And if I believe it is valuable why do I refer to this as procrastiwriting or procrastireading?

I ponder on this for a while before coming to the conclusion that procrastireading and writing is important. This writing and reading does play a central role in enabling me to conceptualise the work I’m doing to make connections between my ideas and those of others, it enables me to jump into the stream and then out again, at will. It enables me, as Laurel Richardson argues to write (and read) myself into understanding. For me, there is a great pleasure that comes from reading about other people’s writing processes, particularly the habits and processes of other academic writers. It is reassuring to hear the tales of others as they struggle over words, twist concepts into a shape that will effectively frame their research, and return time and time again to pesky, difficult concepts. So while some of what I do might seem mindless- it is an act of translation, as I read and interpret their processes. I am a voyeur, a collector, a processor. I am all of these things until I morph and become a creator, engaged in an assemblage of facts, minutiae and trivia until I then become a purveyor, a seller of ideas.

Then the cycle begins once more. A bower bird of electronica, I retweet, favourite, like, upload, bookmark, copy, paste and pin. I fall in and out of the stream. I am connected, disconnected, present and absent.

And you? Reading this, are you procrastireading? Or are you engaged in a dialogue? A dialogue, not with me, but with the ideas in your head? How do the puzzle pieces fit together for you in this reading and writing process?

Tacking, shifting and stitching

So I’ve had a little of a break from my online writing over Easter. I spent some time down the coast and ended up spending most of my time thinking and daydreaming about writing. Suffice to say by the time I got home, there was a scratch that only writing could itch and I spent all of yesterday working on a couple of projects that had been lingering.

By the sea, my thoughts about what I was writing started to meld together. I’d driven down to the breakwater and sat there as the Easter tides crashed against the manmade barrier and foam and spray surged over the wall and onto people perched against the railing with cameras to capture the sea in all her glory. As I sat there thinking I began to see how sometimes seemingly disparate ideas could be stitched together to make a coherent whole. Yesterday, when I sat down to write I had one of those days where I could get lost in what I was writing. I had decided to start with a 25 min pomodoro session to get me going, but instead I just wrote and the 25 mins drifted past me without realizing. So it may have been a pomodoro fail or a writing success depending on how you look at it.

When I returned home from the beach a copy of Robert Nash’s Liberating Scholarly Writing: The power of personal narrative (2004) had arrived in the mail and so it is on my list of reading for today.  This was a book that Pat Goodson had recommended to me and I’m looking forward to reading it. I had a very quick look at the opening chapter yesterday and was struck by this line “Good teaching, good helping, and good leadership are, in one sense, all about storytelling and story-evoking. It is in the mutual exchange of stories that professionals and scholars are able to meet clients and students where they actually live their lives” (p. 2). Already I like this notion of the mutual exchange of stories, of the points in which our lives and stories intersect and of stories being the place where we can uncover more about the world, ourselves and our work through that meeting. After a gloomy day here yesterday, the sky is blue and I figure this is the perfect way to spend the afternoon after doing a bit of writing this morning on a research proposal and a couple of abstracts.

Speaking of writing abstracts, I’m doing some experimentation with abstract and journal writing courtesy of Pat Thomson who is currently in Iceland running a short writing course. You can find out more about her course here:


Today she uploaded an overview of what she had done in that day’s session and she invites you to write along at home if you so desire:


As I was about to start on an abstract proposal for a conference I wanted to attend in December I thought I’d start with her 2 x 5 minute shut up and write activities to help me on my way. What surprised me was doing the 5 min writing activity on ‘the article I’m going to write’. When I sat down to write I had a vague idea of what I wanted to think about in the paper I might present, but in 5 minutes I was able to jot down a whole range of ideas that I wanted to cover. Looking back over what I’ve written, I think there might be more than one paper in there, so it’s time to do some paring back and work out what fits where. At the moment I’ve got too many pieces that I’m wanting to put into one puzzle, so I need to take out some of the pieces that don’t go with this picture and put them somewhere else.

The second 5 minute writing activity on ‘why journal readers need to read my article’ was a really good way of getting me to think about the ‘so what?’ question. In 5 minutes I had to think about and sharpen my ideas of why what I’m doing matters, what is it adding to the cacophony of noise out there already about teaching and teacher education. Even though I can  answer the ‘so what?’ question, it is at this point that the imposter monster rears up and questions  ‘Why does your voice matter?’ Sometimes he’s useful as he keeps me honest, but other times, he can become debilitating, halting progress and keeping me stuck. At times like these though when I need a critical voice asking ‘so what?’, I let him out of his cage, give him a bit of food and air, and then lock him back away until I might need him again.

10 minutes in total and I’ve got some ideas that are starting to form shape. With some moulding, rearranging and stitching they too will become part of the coherent whole I picture in my brain. I’m going off to do some more tacking as I place the draft pieces together, moving them to see where their seams fit together perfectly.